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This is the Kodak Moment for the Auto Industry

Plug-In Drivers Not Missin' the Piston Electric vehicles are here to stay. Their market acceptance and growth will continue. Why?...

Saturday, October 9, 2021

5 Years Or Tesla Ownership

I bought my first Tesla, a Model X, in 2016; it was one of the first 20 thousand Model Xes off the line. We were not as early to Tesla as the original Roadster buyers but ahead of the swarm of Model 3 buyers.

Five years in and I still love to drive it. Each year that I've owned it, I've written an annual report of the adventures we've had and our ownership experience. You can see years 1 through 4 here: 1, 2, 3, 4. 

At the end of year 5, we have just under 43 thousand miles on the vehicle. 

Battery Degradation

Normally, I start these reports by talking about our various road trips for the past year and that fun we've had getting there in our Tesla, but I don't want to bury the lead for this year. The big breakthrough in year 5 is that the battery degradation has leveled off. This is great news! As you can see in the graph below, there was notable degradation in years 1 through 4.  


When new, our 90D had an EPA-rated range of 257 miles. In the first year, it was down to 250 miles. The end of year 2 saw 246 miles. The range was 240 miles at the end of year 3. Year 4 knocked another seven miles off, bringing the range to 233 miles. I was starting to get worried. The range seemed to be dropping 4 to 7 miles each year with no sign of slowing. I knew that battery range degradation is to be expected in the first few years, but the degradation rate should slow after that and I was seeing no signs of slowing since year 4 lost as much range as year 1 (seven miles).  

Year 5, is when we finally had the leveling off that I've been waiting for. As we exit year 5, I'm happy to say the reported range is now 237 miles (up a bit from the end of year 4).  

I'm not sure why more range is now being reported. We have had several over-the-air software upgrades. It's possible that one of them has changed the way the battery is managed or this data is reported. There's also "noise" in the readings from various things like battery-balancing, temperature... 

Another possibility is that with the pandemic, we've cut most of our road trips and I've been working from home for the last ~19 months, so the vehicle is not driven as much as years 1-4. This year+ of light use may have contributed to the reduced degradation too. Whatever the cause, I'm happy to see this leveling at 8% degradation. 

If you're EV shopping, and you plan to keep the EV for 5 plus years, make sure you account for this and buy at least 10% more range than you need to allow for some level of degradation and a worry-free drive.

To the Dunes

Quad on the dunes (via jmaboy)

Now on to the fun stuff. The one notable road trip we did take this year was to the Oregon dunes. Our timing was perfect as a heatwave hit the Portland area, we headed to the coast where it was much cooler. 

The drive was easy, we drove from Portland to Florence, Oregon on a single charge. The Florence hotel we stayed in had a Tesla destination charger. This allowed us to charge up as we strolled on the beach and ate dinner, giving us plenty of charge for our fun the next day. 

The dunes were fun; I can't wait till we can rent a Cyberquad or the like and tool-around on electrically powered sand riders.

On To Another Year

I plan on keeping this Model X until 2025. However, my 2016 vehicle is an Autopilot 1 vehicle and all the Full Self Driving Beta hype is getting my attention and giving me a case of fomo. The refreshed Model Xs have recently been spotted, I might have to go and test drive one soon. 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

The Next Industrial Revolution

It has taken an extra decade or three, but it looks like we're finally moving into the 21st century: COVID-19 vaccines were developed with messenger RNA rather than 1900s techniques, rockets are able to land rather than just splashdown into the ocean*, cars will soon drive themselves, renewable energy is dominating new deployments, energy storage is reaching industrial scale, AI can understand human speech, by 2030 the majority of new passenger vehicle sales will be electric...

Times they are a-changin'.

We recently looked at Moore's Law, Wright's Law, Swanson's Law, & Jevons Paradox. These are and will continue to accelerate the advancement of technology. This got me thinking, what will the next big revolution be? 

Here are several of the past revolutions: 

Historical Revolutions

Textile manufacturing 
Steam engine
Steele production
Automobiles
Electrification, electric lighting 
Telecommunications
Transatlantic communications
Home appliances
Computers 
Satellites 
The Internet / broadband 
Smartphones 
Datacenter / cloud

Rarely does a revolution come out of nowhere. Rather, the innovation exists, it is just constrained by something such as cost or producibility. So to see what's coming, let's look at the things that exist, but are somewhat nascent.

The Next Wave 

Using this lens, the things to watch include:
3D Printing
Energy Storage 
Renewable Energy 
"Affordable" Space Access
Artificial General Inteligence (AGI)
Autonomous Robots / Self Driving Cars 
Blockchain
Cryptocurrency / Fin-tech
Nanotech
Biotech / Genomics 
Human Brain Interfacing 


Certainly, all of the items on this Next Wave list are here to some extent today. The question is which one(s) will find the killer app? Which one (or more) will become ubiquitous? 
 
What do you think is missing from the list and which ones do you think will be the next big thing?

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Tesla Will Make EVs In Texas but Can They Sell Them In Texas?


Tesla has announced that their next factory will be in Texas and construction is well underway. You can call it Giga Austin or Tera Texas, either way, this is great news. The Cybertruck and Semi are both expected to enter production from this site and it will mean jobs and revenue for the region. Tesla and the state of Texas seem to have a budding new friendship. Elon Musk has sold his California homes, moved to Boca Chica, Texas (or is that Starship, TX?) Speaking of Boca Chica, we can't forget about all the SpaceX activity in the state too. The Boring Company has even opened an office in the area. Musk is clearly all-in on Texas, but it is unclear if this will be a two-way relationship. 

The Lone Star State has named Giga Austin as The Manufacturing Project of the Year. And the state of Texas was given the 'Gold Shovel Award' by Area Development magazine for their business-friendly policies. 

Texas governor, Greg Abbott said, “The Lone Star State offers innovative businesses, the freedom to flourish with our pro-growth economic policies, a predictable regulatory environment, and our young, growing, and diverse workforce."

So with this mutual love-fest and pro-economics policies, certainly Texans will be able to buy the products that Tesla makes in the factories in Texas, right? Well, not directly. 

Currently, Texas state law does *not* allow Tesla to sell vehicles in the state. If you're a Texan and you want a Tesla, it has to be registered in another state and then transferred into Texas. When Giga Austin is online, it will be even more ridiculous. The vehicles will be legally required to be shipped out of the state before they can be delivered to someone that lives in Texas. You will not be able to go to the factory, take a tour, and drive home in your new just-off-the-line vehicle.

That's right, if you live in Texas, your vehicle will need to be loaded onto a truck and carried across the state line to New Mexico, Oklahoma, or Louisiana. Then the car carrier can turn around and take your vehicle to a Tesla service center where you can pick it up after you've paid for it online via a server that's outside the state. Note the loophole, this vehicle pick up is now not a "deliver", it's just an existing owner picking up their vehicle.

Why is this? As in many states, the auto dealership association has a significant amount of local political power. Tesla is not a member of their club. Tesla does not sell cars to dealerships, where dealerships add their mark-up, haggle on prices, sell you rust-proof undercoating, sell you service contracts, check with the backroom three times while you wait... Since they are not getting their cut, they want to do all they can to slow Tesla down in their region and they are using all of their political clout to do just that.

They say "everything is bigger in Texas," I guess that applies to cronyism and protectionism too. Maybe that saying doesn't apply to free markets and direct competition.

Oh, and if you thought, at least this means you won't have to pay Texas vehicle sales tax, I have bad news for you. Texas still requires their pound of flesh. 


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

For Electric Vehicles, There's No Reverse

  

Globally, plug-in vehicles were only about 4% of automotive sales in 2020. That's a small portion of the market. What difference does a 4% change make? Well, it's a growing percentage and unlike the 1990s EV movement, this time it looks unstoppable. This time, it won't be crushed, it won't be put into reverse. 
This trend looks like it will only increase. Many automakers are vowing to only sell zero-emission vehicles by 2030, '35, or '40 and many states and regions are banning the sale of new gas-powered cars along the same timeframe. 

There would be a major uproar against these initiatives if not for the fact that many consumers now expect their next vehicle will be a plug-in hybrid or an EV. Forbes reports that "consumer interest in purchasing an electric vehicle has doubled in the past three years." This is the decade of the EV.

Welcome to the electric generation! 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Tesla Network's Underground Advantage


Elon Musk knows how to cross-promote. The Boring Company uses Tesla vehicles in its Loop service. Space X uses Tesla Model X vehicles to transport astronauts to the launch pad. And who could forget when Space X launched a Tesla Roadster into space. It wouldn't be surprising to someday see a Lunar (or Mars) rover based on the Cybertruck with a large Space X logo on the side of the vehicle.

With this cross-pollination in mind, let's conjecture about the, yet to be deployed, Tesla Network. The Tesla Network is Tesla's planned robotaxi service. Of course, Full Self Driving is needed before there could be a robotaxi service. However, Tesla could launch a preliminary version of the Tesla Network that uses human drivers. This version of the network would be similar to Uber or Lyft, but with a 100% Tesla pure electric fleet.

Let's add one more component before putting the pieces together. The Boring Company Loop system is currently deployed in Vegas and under development in other cities. In this controlled environment, it will be much easier to achieve full self-driving.

Now, let's put this together. Imagine if the Tesla Network had access to the Loop tunnels. If the Tesla Network cars were human-piloted, they would drop into fully automated mode as they enter the Loop, they'd then navigate the tunnels, upon reaching the other end they'd return control to the human pilot as the car exits the Loop system. 

Consider a city that has a Loop tunnel system under the most congested portions of the city. In this example, there are Loop entry and exit points at the airport, the convention center, the multimodal park-and-ride, the stadium, and any other major attractions in the city. 

The Loop system would only be available to Tesla Network vehicles since they have the needed autonomous system to navigate the tunnels with high speed and to coordinate access with the other vehicles in the system.

This would be a major advantage that other ride-hail providers could not match. Image pulling out your phone, opening the "Tesla Hail" app, tapping in your destination; two minutes later a Tesla pulls up to the curb in front of you. You're in a westside suburb and you want to go to an event on the other side of town. It's rush hour (because it's always rush hour nowadays). You hop in the Tesla and head toward the crosstown highway. Instead of getting on the gridlocked highway, the car diverts to a corkscrew, you spiral down a level or two as the steering wheel tucks away, you enter a well-lit tunnel and accelerate to freeway speeds. The few other cars that you see are all engaged in a well-choreographed autonomous ballet. This is not a collection of rude and distracted drivers; this is an orchestrated, efficient system. 

After passing under the congestion of the city, you resurface on the eastside. The steering wheel redeploys and flashes for the driver to take control once again. The trip continues and you are dropped off with door-to-door service in half the time it would've taken on surface streets.

If this were available, why would you use any other service? 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Living In 2030


A friend was complaining about his electricity bill. He said, "With all this the heat this summer, I've been running the air conditioner a lot and the electricity bill is through the roof." 

He knows me well and before I could even say it, he said, "I know, speaking of my roof, I should put solar panels up there, right?" 

"Well, yeah," I said. "It makes more energy during the sunny summer months, so production scales up and down well with AC use; keeping the electric bill pretty flat with even a modestly sized solar system."

Him: "I might do it someday. Last time I looked, it was too expensive."

Me: "I'd check again. The prices have been dropping and there are incentives that can help pay for it. I'd get a quote from Tesla, Sunrun, and at least one other installer."

Him: "It would be cool to get home batteries too. We don't lose power often, but last winter we did and we had to go stay with my in-laws for a couple of days. I'd pay a lot to avoid doing that again, haha."

This conversation made me think of an expression, “The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed.” In a lot of ways, our home is part of that unevenly distributed future. We have 2 long-range EVs in the garage, we have solar panels on the roof, and batteries to time-shift our energy use and back up for grid outages. Each one is great on its own, but when you put them together, they have positive compounding effects that allow you do even more.

Batteries are the most expensive component in an EV. Solar and EVs will be the obvious choice by 2030 (if not sooner). Wright's Law and Swanson's Law provide positive feedback loops for these technologies. Prices will continue to drop for solar and batteries; opening a larger market for them; further increasing economies of scale, further reducing costs, rinse and repeat.

So in 2030, if your roof has sun exposure, you can be assured, you'll have solar up there and if you are shopping for a new car in 2030, an internal combustion vehicle will be harder to find than a stick shift transmission is today in 2021.

Disclosure: I'm long Tesla.